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A Mighty Heart
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this docudrama probably won't interest the majority of kids -- only the most mature teens will want to see the story of a woman's mission to save her kidnapped husband. But since Angelina Jolie is the star, and the story of Daniel Pearl's abduction and videotaped murder has been widely reported, some tweens/young teens might be curious. While the actual killing isn't shown, snippets of the preceding video are, as are photos of Danny in captivity and images of suspects being briefly tortured while interrogated. There's also a great deal of harsh language ("f--k," "s--t", etc.), almost all prompted by despair and anger at Danny's capture and death.
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What's the story?
A MIGHTY HEART is one of those fact-based films where the audience is fully aware of the inevitable, grim climax; no matter how calm the early conversations are between married journalists Mariane (Angelina Jolie) and Daniel (Dan Futterman) Pearl, you know the bloody, heartbreaking end is near. Director Michael Winterbottom doesn't focus solely on Mariane, as a more sentimental director might have; rather, he closely depicts everyone intimately involved in the race to find Pearl -- from Danny's Wall Street Journal editor and colleagues to an American consulate official (Will Patton) to dogged Pakistani detectives led by "Captain" (Indian star Irfan Khan, a master of subtlety). As Captain and his crews scour the overcrowded streets of Karachi for clues (suspects) and Mariane and the WSJ reporters use a white board to connect the various players in the kidnapping, the tension is alleviated with flashbacks to Danny's last day as a free citizen and his life with Mariane. The brief scenes of the Pearls on their wedding day, dancing on vacation, and talking in bed are the heart of the film; they show what Danny's killers have destroyed. When the terrorists' horrifying photos of a bound Danny arrive accompanied by published accusations that Pearl is a CIA agent -- or worse, a Mossad operative -- the audience is again reminded that there is sadly only one outcome, no matter how close Captain and the FBI get to catching the kidnappers. Of course, that final, grisly beheading video is never re-created. It doesn't need to be, because by that point in the film, we've already played some version of it over and over again in our minds.
Is it any good?
Jolie, in her finest performance since 1999's Girl, Interrupted plays Mariane beautifully. Every curl is in place, every Cuban-French-accented word is well rehearsed, and every reaction to the media whirlwind that eventually surrounds her is completely understood. Clearly the most buzzed-about celebrity mama in the world wants to show that she can still act, and her intimate portrayal proves that.
A Mighty Heart obviously isn't an easy film to see, but it provides a realistic, sometimes harrowing look at what the days between Pearl's capture and killing were like for those desperate to find him. And in the process, it gives Danny's admirable life and his courageous wife a touching tribute.
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